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Regional development minister resigns after Putin knuckle-rap

Published time: October 17, 2012 10:33
Edited time: October 17, 2012 17:43
RIA Novosti/Aleksey Druzhinin

RIA Novosti/Aleksey Druzhinin

The recent scandal in which President Putin chided several ministers for failing follow his orders on budget policy eventually ended in the first resignation from Dmitry Medvedev’s government.

After weeks of uncertainty, the resignation of Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun has been confirmed by the Russian president’s website.

The scandal began in mid-September as President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with the government ministers dedicated to future budget policy. The president announced that the draft budget did not comply with several of presidential orders. He then said that presidential orders must not exist by themselves and the ministers were completely wrong not to pay enough attention to them.

After that, Putin announced that the ministers’ work included personal responsibility for the results and promised to tell Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to issue official remands to Govorun and Labor Minister Maksim Topilin.

Putin’s spokesman reported a short time later that the president also considered Minister of Education and Science Dmitry Livanov worthy of a reprimand.

The latter two accepted the criticism, but Govorun, according to media reports, was offended. The minister was not only upset about the president’s harsh tone, but even more about the attitude of the head of the government, who did very little to defend his subordinates from criticism.

What followed was a rather strange string of reports and refutations, with media saying that Govorun had submitted his resignation and stopped going to work, and officials saying the minister was on sick leave, but continued to perform his duties.

The ambiguity ended this week as President Putin accepted Govorun’s resignation and appointed a new official to the post, according to the report published on the presidential web-site.

After the question was clarified, several experts suggested in media comments that Govorun’s resignation was no surprise, as he had become tired of the routine of the ministry. Previously he was in charge of much more important issues. Before assuming the minister’s seat in May this year, he for many years worked in the Presidential Administration’s department for internal policy – the body that shapes the political system in the country.

The new minister for regional development has already been appointed. Igor Slyunyayev, a former governor of the central Russian Kostroma Region takes the post. The prime minister’s press secretary confirmed this fact and stressed that the appointment was made by Dmitry Medvedev’s presentation after the president and PM held special consultations on the subject.

On Wednesday Prime Minister Medvedev introduced the new minister to other government members. “I wish you success and I wish you strong nerves. Our experience shows that the minister of regional development really needs strong nerves,” the PM joked.

It should also be noted that the Ministry of Regional Development is facing hard times because the authorities are still planning to launch a separate Ministry for Ethnic Issues that will assume part of the parent structure’s responsibilities.